National vs. International - What's the difference?


International mostly means something (a company, language, or organization) involving more than a single country. The term international as a word means involvement of, interaction between or encompassing more than one nation, or generally beyond national boundaries. For example, international law, which is applied by more than one country and usually everywhere on Earth, and international language which is a language spoken by residents of more than one country.

National vs. International



1. Etymology

From Middle French national; see nation.

2. Pronunciation

  • IPA(key): /ˈnæʃ(ə)nəl/

3. Adjective

national (comparative more national, superlative most national)

  1. Of or having to do with a nation.
  2. (by extension) Of or having to do with a country (sovereign state).
    Import tariffs were raised for the national interest.

3.1. Usage notes

See nation for notes regarding the usage of national to refer to the UK and its member states.

4. Noun

national (plural nationals)

  1. A subject of a nation.
    The diplomats were advised not to interact with any foreign nationals except on official duty.
  2. (usually in the plural) A tournament in which participants from all over the nation compete.
    After winning the regional tournament, the team advanced to the nationals.

5. Further reading

  • national in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • national in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911

6. Anagrams

  • nataloin, notalian


1. Etymology

inter- +‎ national. Reportedly coined in modern English by Jeremy Bentham.

2. Pronunciation

  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˌɪntəˈnæʃ(ə)n(ə)l/, [ˌɪntəˈnæʃ(ə)n(ə)ɫ]
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˌɪntɚˈnæʃ(ə)n(ə)l/, [ˌɪntɚˈnæʃ(ə)n(ə)ɫ], [ˌɪɾ̃ɚˈnæʃ(ə)n(ə)ɫ]
  • Rhymes: -ənəl

3. Adjective

international (comparative more international, superlative most international)

  1. Of or having to do with more than one nation.
  2. Between or among nations
    an international discussion
  3. participated in by two or more nations
    an international competition
  4. common to, or affecting, two or more nations.
    an international rule
  5. serving two or more nations
    an international airport
  6. Of or concerning the association called the International.
  7. Independent of national boundaries; common to all people.
  8. Foreign; of another nation.
    • 2014 October 27, Steve Ginsburg, Reuters "More international players than ever before, league says":
      The number of international players in the National Basketball Association has increased 10 percent from one year ago, the league said on Monday.

3.1. Derived terms

  • International Falls
  • internationalise, internationalize
  • int'l, intl

4. Noun

international (plural internationals)

  1. (sports) Someone who has represented their country in a particularly sport.
    The United team includes five England internationals.
  2. (sports) A game or contest between two or more nations.

5. See also

  • supranational

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